posted by Benedict Townsend

We examine the recent phenomenon of ‘react’ channels and ask whether YouTubers are justified in getting so upset over them

When it comes to YouTube drama, 2016 has been more unruly than the ocean and eight times as salty. In the midst of all these separate beefs and crybabies legitimate complaints, it can be hard to work out exactly what outrage is actually worth your time. Well have no fear, Unicorns are here – and we are ready to spill the tea on a topic that has generated more rage than any other in these past few months: react channels. When one hears the phrase ‘react channel’ your mind immediately springs to those delightfully cheeky Fine Brothers, who attempted to monopolise the reacting business and succeeded just beautifully, but it’s not their brand of ‘teens react to X’ videos I’m talking about today.


Arguably one of the most entertaining (and perplexingly lenghthy) GIFs ever made


I’m talking about a kind of video that is more, for want of a better phrase, basic AF. These channels don’t feature any editing, they’re just full uncut videos of a ‘reactor’ watching someone else’s full, uncut video (remember that detail for later) and vaguely ‘reacting’ to it, in a manner that mostly involves head-bobbing and the occasional confused grunt. The face of this new ‘format’ was a fellow called ‘Jinx‘, who amassed a jaw-dropping number of subscribers thanks to his patented brand of ‘sitting very quietly and just letting someone else’s full video play out’. You may think I’m exaggerating, but look at this nonsense:


Now that was a trailer, which may seem somewhat reasonable, especially as movie makers want their trailers to be seen by as many people as possible, but he would also record (now-deleted) reactions to YouTubers videos. The YouTubers were, as you may expect, not too happy about that. Just check out this example of the ever-hilarious Jack Douglass barely holding in his rage as he ‘reacts’ to Jinx ‘reacting’ to one of his videos:



The rage against Jinx and channels like him reached fever-pitch when GradeAUnderA (who is also effectively a react channel, albeit a better kind that respects copyright) called them out in a furious rant in August 2015. The result? Well it took a good few months but now Jinx has announced that he is no longer doing react videos and, true to his word, he hasn’t made any since that announcement.



However, that is not the end of the problem. There are still many channels (like CJisSoCool) who are still happily making react videos. ‘Why is it really so bad, though?’ You may ask. Well I’m glad you raised the question, because there are in fact a couple of possible problems with these videos and imma break them down, right now.



1. It Begins With C 

Copyright, plain and simple. Most major countries have a legal principle called ‘Fair Use’, which is relied upon by many YouTubers in order to make their content freely. Long story short, in this context the principle says that it’s okay to use someone else’s video (or copyrighted material) in your videos provided that you use it in an appropriate way. Specifically this means that you have to alter or review the content or generally do something to it that adds  something substantial to the original copyrighted material. It’s the reason why you can post a review of a movie on YouTube and include movie clips, but can’t just upload the whole movie unedited. It’s a legal idea that’s meant to give room to critics and creatives. ‘Reactors’ like Jinx, however, seem to fall into the categories of neither ‘critic’ or ‘creator’ though. They do not change the videos they ‘react’ to – they play them in full from beginning to end, nor do they provide any meaningful criticism (at least while the video is playing), instead mostly just expressing themselves with chuckles and blank stares.



The question then becomes whether or not these react channels are abusing the long-cherished principle of fair use in order to make super-easy content which takes advantage of the talent of others. If they are, then they are in violation of the video owner’s copyright and their react videos should be taken down by YouTubers. The YouTubers whose videos have featured on these channels have made their view pretty clear, with PewDiePie making disapproval pretty clear in this video:



2. It’s All Innocent – Until It’s Not

Jinx, CJ and others are relatively harmless in their work (possible video theft notwithstanding). They tend to be positive about the videos they watch and are generally just looking to have a good time. This is – of course – not the case for all react channels. In fact they is a depressing, yet very popular, subset of YouTube that effectively consists of meninist dudes ‘reacting’ to women’s videos. As you can imagine, their reactions are somewhat negative – especially when the women has the sheer nerve to utter the word ‘feminism’. It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s video, or views – but it’s quite another to disagree with a video that you have also downloaded, placed into your own video in its entirety and then re-uploaded. If you’re going to call yourself a critic, don’t undermine yourself by building your epic takedowns on someone else’s copyrighted material.



Restricting videos of any kind is certainly something that the YouTube has never been a fan of – but equally so is the issue of stealing people’s videos. Ultimately we have to ask, when all the legal jargon and bickering is pulled away – who really owns videos on the internet? When you post something to YouTube is still yours, or does it become something that is owned by your viewers, by the community. If a fan or critic wants to share and play with something you have made, should they not be allowed to do so? For many that seems to be the grand goal of the internet, after all – an open and free plane where everything is shared. A socialist utopia made out of 1’s and 0’s and both bleeps and bloops. I’d like to know what you think. Do you agree that these channels seem to be, at the very least, stretching the boundaries of Fair Use – or do you think they are perfectly within their rights to continue? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page – and have a lovely day.